USA Today - 05/25/2001
"Steve McQueen's greatest and only Oscar-nominated performance came in THE SAND PEBBLES....The movie is one of the most uncompromised blockbusters in Hollywood history..."
Uncut - 07/01/2005
One of the most exciting and heart-wrenching epics ever made, THE SAND PEBBLES is a masterpiece of storytelling, with exceptional performances by a stellar cast. The complex tale begins simply enough in 1926 China, where a group of American soldiers are patrolling the Yangtze River on a gunboat called the San Pablo. The crew members, who call themselves Sand Pebbles, includes Jake Holman (Steve McQueen), a dispassionate but capable navy machinist, and his only friend, Frenchy (Richard Attenborough), a sailor in love with an English-educated Chinese girl, Maily (Marayat Andriane), who has been sold into prostitution. Strong feelings of nationalism have been sweeping through China, however, and when Chiang Kai-shek moves against the feudal warlords, the United States decides to treat the upheaval as a civil war, and the San Pablo is ordered to confine its function to protection of American civilians in the area. Included among them are Mr. Jameson (Larry Gates), a missionary, and Shirley Eckert (Candice Bergen), a schoolteacher with whom Jake falls in love. Soon Jake finds himself in the middle of an international military crisis when his native assistant, Po-han (Mako), is brutally tortured in an attempt to draw the San Pablo's fire, and the boat's inexperienced and prideful captain (Richard Crenna) wants to give his humiliated ship and disgraced crew a chance for glory. THE SAND PEBBLES--with its expert cinematography, moving score, and riveting locations--is a memorable viewing experience brought to life by the multitalented director Robert Wise.
An exceptional performance by Steve McQueen as a crew member of an American gunboat caught in a foreign struggle in post-World War I China highlights this thrilling tale. As tensions arise between the ready crew and their inexperienced captain, one of the sailors embarks on a doomed romance with an Asian woman. Academy Award Nominations: 8, including Best Picture, Best Actor--Steve McQueen.